Submitting a Memior that “Doesn’t Conform”

Dear Lenny…

Well that’s certainly a hook. Here’s what you do: Identify other off-center memoirs and see who publishes them, then search those publishers’ online catalogs to see if your non-conformer would fit in. Knee-jerk comparative titles: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max or Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by Frank Bruni. But even more specifically you put me in mind of the UK bestseller Tunnel Visions: Journeys of an Underground Philosopher by Christopher Ross, who wrote this fascinating Underground/coworker/human nature expose after working in the London Underground for sixteen months. You might say that book was about “all the drunks, nuts, and abnormal individuals” who work in and ride the Underground. You’ll find leads on similar books by looking for these titles on store or library shelves and then examining the titles surrounding them, and also by typing these titles into Amazon and scrolling down to the “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought” feature. One title will lead you to another, to another, to another…. Soon you’ll have a list of publishers to submit to.

Happy writing!

The Editor


  1. And the double advantage after this research is you find other books to read in your unique genre, which could help you get a feel of how they did it, what drove an agent/editor to say yes to them…and then to you. Good luck.

  2. Great timing on this post! My grandmother was one that was diagnosed with Polio at the age of 2. During one of her surgeries, she flat-lined for a good amount time before they brought her back. After that, she was never the same – then diagnosed with Schizophrenia and kept a journal the rest of her life, which was a life filled with sadness and loss. I’m considering taking on the project of turning it into a memoir, but not sure if it would make sense, or how to approach this because it was written from the perspective of someone with a mental disorder. Any thoughts?

    • As far as a hook goes, it’s a plus that it was written by someone with a mental disorder. You’ll have to be the judge of its clarity. Perhaps you could take on the official role of “editor”, acknowledging that there has been some organization and clarification applied to the writing. Do the same kind of research I recommended for Lenny, only applied to memoirs with mental health themes. Starting titles: Five Farewells: A Southern Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder by Liz Elliot, Thinking in Pictures: And Other Reports from My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin, and An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison.

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